Harare – Zimbabwean fruit and fresh produce suppliers say the government has to relax the import ban on apples and pears, but have welcomed the immediate ban on other horticultural products such as vegetables and tomatoes.
South African agricultural producers will be affected by the new ban, which Zimbabwean Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said on Tuesday was motivated with the need to preserve scarce foreign currency earnings.
"His Excellency (President Robert Mugabe) has directed me and the Minister of Industry and Commerce to quickly stop the importation of horticultural products as they waste much-needed foreign currency," Made told state media on Tuesday.
"This means that the importation of fruit and vegetables will be stopped immediately," he added. In 2016, Zimbabwe spent about $80m importing fresh farm produce and fruits.
He however said the government is now finalising "the exact list of foreign-produced fruits that are occupying shelves" in Zimbabwean supermarkets, which include Pick n Pay and OK Zimbabwe.
Although the ban has been announced with immediate effect, Zimbabwe has a gaping shortage of apples, pears and other related fruits whose demand has risen owing to growing health and dietary requirements, experts said.
"All the pears you see in shops in Zimbabwe are imported; we do not have any pear production going on.
"On apples, we have to engage the government and present to them the situation on the ground showing that we have a gap of about 20 000 tonnes per year which we are failing to fill and which the imports will adequately fill in," said Newton Jaravani of the Fresh Produce Marketing Association of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has been an importer of products such as tomatoes, onions, potatoes and others despite having the resources to produce locally, especially in the light of a good rainy season this year.
The fruit producers in Zimbabwe say the country has adequate stock of citrus products such as oranges, and added that as a citrus exporter Zimbabwe does not need to import these fruits.
Denford Mutashu of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers said the ban was announced "suddenly" and will affect retailers "in terms of stocking and planning purposes".
Zimbabwean retailers are under pressure from the government to pick over 50% of their stock from local suppliers and producers.
SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE UPDATE: Get Fin24's top morning business news and opinions in your inbox.